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Customs and Culture >
How do Muslims feel about pets, or petting animals?

There is no Quranic prohibition or condemnation of pets. Many hadith (Prophetic traditions) emphasize treating animals kindly and not overworking or beating them. One records the story of a woman who starved a cat to death and thus went to hell, while another describes a man who saved the life of a thirsty dog and thus went to heaven.

Dogs in the Islamic world are typically not allowed inside the house because they are considered to be unclean. Many Muslims believe that if anyone comes into contact with a dog's saliva, that person must repeat the ritual ablutions prior to prayer. A frequently cited hadith records that Muhammad forbade dogs inside the house for reasons of hygiene, but another hadith reports that the Prophet had a dog that used to play around him as he prayed outside his home. Cats, known for their cleanliness, lived in the household of Muhammad. He and some of his Companions were well known for their kindness to cats.

Some Muslims today argue that issues of disease that rendered dogs unhygienic in the past have largely been resolved through advances in veterinary medicine, so that contact with dogs is no longer a problem. Increasingly, Muslims, particularly those who were born in the United States and Europe, have dogs as pets. Others, however, believe that the prohibition of dogs inside the house recorded in the hadith remains applicable to every time and place.

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